The Hampden Academy cross country team will continue its championship quest in the Eastern Maine regionals Saturday in Belfast.
The Broncos have already won the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B race in Augusta last weekend, and they’ll look to make it 2-for-2 on the 3.1-mile course at the Troy Howard Middle School.
The Class A boys will race at 11:35 a.m., the Class B runners at 12:45 p.m. and the Class C squads at 1:55 p.m.
Coach Dick Balentine’s Broncos were a man short last week, as No. 2 runner Evan Piccirillo sat out with a hip injury, but Balentine is hopeful that he’ll compete Saturday.
“We were just being conservative,” Balentine said Saturday.
Hampden will renew some old rivalries with fellow Class B heavyweights Caribou and Ellsworth, and in an interesting contrast, with the exception of MDI in 2002 and 2003, these three teams have owned Class B this decade having won every regional crown.
The Broncos are led by one of the region’s top runners in senior Darik Frye, who is having an impressive rookie cross-country debut in Maine.
Frye moved from Massachusetts his junior year and excelled in indoor and outdoor track for Hampden.
Along with Frye and Piccirillo, the Broncos also have a deep pack with Greg O’Donnell, Mike Wagner, Andrew Closson and Travis Bach.
Hampden is ready for the challenge that awaits them in defending champion Caribou, which has a very potent top four.
“I think it’ll be quite a bit of a challenge,” Frye said. “But I think if we work this week, have some good workouts and just stay focused on our goal of winning regionals, I think we can come out on top.”
Caribou is led by Tim Freme, Finn Bondeson, Christian Sleeper and D.J. Flynn, while No. 5 Man Jake Michaud has been improving steadily.
Ellsworth, paced by Ben Chapman, can’t be counted out.
KVAC champ Frye, PVC winner Gabe Stewart of John Bapst of Bangor and Erskine Academy of South China’s Sam Seekins are the favorites for the individual crown.
Class A: KVAC winner Edward Little of Auburn will be looking for a repeat performance from that meet and the Red Eddies will be facing the same competition.
The Eddies are led up front by senior Sadam Abdi and junior Faisal Noor, both of whom finished in the top 10 in Augusta last weekend.
Brunswick is best equipped to challenge EL, as the Dragons boast KVAC individual champ Will Geoghegan, who established a Belfast course record at the Festival of Champions earlier this fall.
Geoghegan’s chief competition will come from Morse of Bath’s Jason Kaake, Mt. Blue of Farmington’s Kelton Cullenberg, Abdi and Cony of Augusta’s Luke Fontaine.
Sam Nisbett of Bangor, who finished seventh at the KVAC title meet, will be seeking a similar output.
Class C: This could be the closest meet of the bunch, as Orono and Bangor Christian had to go to the sixth-man tiebreaker to determine a Penobscot Valley Conference champ, with the Patriots coming out on top.
Bangor Christian has a fine 1-2 punch in Bradley Wilcox and Nate Fowler while Orono is led by Alex Bulteel.
Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln’s Matt Guiod is a contender for individual honors, along with Bulteel. The two were separated by only three seconds the PVC meet.